As New York City grapples with how to better support the influx of students from asylum-seeking families hailing from South American countries, schools are looking for more bilingual educators and social workers.
They’re also trying to get clothes and food to families in need.
But getting there isn’t simple. At least 5,500 new students living in shelters have enrolled, whom officials believe are largely newcomer immigrants, though their immigration status is not tracked by the education department. Given the additional students, schools should receive, at minimum, an additional $34 million in funding, Comptroller Brad Lander said Tuesday.
Before this school year began, officials had expected about 1,000 children would enroll, though they expected that figure to grow. Now, as nearly six times that number of newcomer students have arrived, officials are scrambling to tackle a raft of challenges at the school level, including a shortage of Spanish-speaking staff.
“There are no easy answers here. We are all very clear about that,” said Chancellor David Banks on Tuesday during a press conference at P.S. 16 in the Bronx, which recently welcomed several asylum seekers to its school. “We’re figuring it out as we go and doing the best that we can.”
The influx of students, many of whom have high needs, comes as schools had already been dealing with funding cuts due to declines in projected enrollment. Officials promised emergency funding for schools that are seeing a surge of new students, but some schools report not yet receiving extra support, Lander said. Brooklyn’s P.S. 124, which enrolled 35 new migrant students, added a temporary guidance counselor but received no new funding or staff, such as another bilingual educator, Lander’s statement said.
P.S. 16, where the chancellor visited Tuesday, now has a psychologist intern and a new English as a new language teacher, Lander said.
Banks said that the school recently saw 39 new students living in temporary housing, though the city does not track whether those students are part of the surge of asylum seekers.
Schools will likely face more challenges as they try to address the various needs of newcomer immigrant students, especially if the number of asylum-seeking students continues to grow.